human livelihoods

Team members of The Africa Center, Kathleen Galvin and Robin Reid, report on the increase in community-based conservancies in Kenya and how these transformations are benefiting wildlife, livestock, and human well-being.

Trees inside and outside forests contribute to food security in Africa in the face of climate variability and change. They also provide environmental and social benefits as part of farming livelihoods. Varied ecological and socio-economic conditions have given rise to specific forms of agroforestry in different parts of Africa. Policies that institutionally segregate forest from agriculture miss opportunities for synergy at landscape scale.  More explicit inclusion of agroforestry and the integration of agriculture and forestry agendas in global initiatives on climate change adaptation and mitigation can increase their effectiveness. We identify research gaps and overarching research questions for the contributions in this special issue that may help shape current opinion in environmental sustainability.

Experts working on behalf of international development organisations need better tools to assist land managers in developing countries maintain their livelihoods, as climate change puts pressure on the ecosystem services that they depend upon. However, current understanding of livelihood vulnerability to climate change is based on a fractured and disparate set of theories and methods. This review therefore combines theoretical insights from sustainable livelihoods analysis with other analytical frameworks (including the ecosystem services framework, diffusion theory, social learning, adaptive management and transitions management) to assess the vulnerability of rural livelihoods to climate change. This integrated analytical framework helps diagnose vulnerability to climate change,whilst identifying and comparing adaptation options that could reduce vulnerability, following four broad steps: i) determine likely level of exposure to climate change, and how climate change might interact with existing stresses and other future drivers of change; ii) determine the sensitivity of stocks of capital assets and flows of ecosystem services to climate change; iii) identify factors influencing decisions to develop and/or adopt different adaptation strategies, based on innovation or the use/substitution of existing assets; and iv) identify and evaluate potential trade-offs between adaptation options. The paper concludes by identifying interdisciplinary research needs for assessing the vulnerability of livelihoods to climate change.

savannas of our birth cover page

Savannas of our birth: People, wildlife, and change in East Africa, written by Robin Reid, tells the sweeping story of the role that East African savannas played in human evolution, how people, livestock, and wildlife interact in the region today, and how these relationships might shift as the climate warms, the world globalizes, and human populations grow.

Climate change is already affecting the livelihoods of West African smallholder farmers who rely on rain-fed agricultural techniques, and it is expected to make food shortages more acute as the region’s population continues to grow. However, some experts have proposed that an integrated approach to land management that ensures sustainable policies could help agriculture-dependent West Africa cope with the looming effects of climate change.

Northern Kenya is undergoing rapid changes due in part to the recent discovery of oil and water and as a result increased road infrastructure throughout the region.  These changes include increased population, habitat fragmentation and competition for scarce resources.  Although it may appear as great potential for local communities to increase their livelihoods, the absence of appropriate governance mechanisms and security has set the stage for drastic increase in violent raiding atacks and other security threats as well as large-scale land-grabbing from outside wealthy investors.  

According to a report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and partner organisations, some areas of Kenya may receive more rainfall as climate patterns shift. Although climate predictions suggest that rainfall will increase in some areas, decreases in rainfall may be seen in some of the most productive agriculture provinces.   Initiatives to help pastoralists adapt to these uncertain futures is underway.  Local groups are partnering with international agencies to promote "Climate-Smart Villages" that provide practical adaptation options to improve food security and resilience.

Firewood has long been used as a cooking fuel in many homes in rural Kenya. But demand for timber is stripping the countryside of its mature trees.  A growing number of Kenyans, however, have discovered an alternative way to increase incomes; farming mangoes.  This practice can help absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while at same time providing farmers with a reliable cash crop in an arid region struggling to produce staple crops like maize.

Pastoralist Voices on Climate Change

Maasai pastoralists face many challenges that are directly related to climate change.  Although government policies aim to reduce mobility in drylands, many pastoralists and scientists agree that pastoralism is a livelihood strategy that may be best suited to help cope with climate change.  This video highlights the ways be which local ecological knowledge and traditional scientific research can work together to build effective solutions that promote resilience in coupled human-natural systems and enhance human well-being.

Maasai Voices on Climate Change

In September 2011, several Maasai pastoralists in Maasai Mara, Kenya received video production training.  This video is a compilation of their efforts to illustrate ongoing changes in Maasai livelihooods and the environment upon which they depend.  

Behind the Scenes: Maasai Voices on Climate Change Participatory Video

This behind the scenes footage illustrates the process of making a participatory video in Maasai Mara, Kenya.  In September 2011 several Maasai pastoralists received video production training, and then were tasked with documenting the changes that local Maasai groups were experiencing in regards to both their livelihood strategies and the environment.

Meet the Maasai Videographers

This short video introduces you to the Maasai videographers in Maasai Mara, Kenya that received video production training prior to documenting the changes that are occuring in Maasai livehlihoods and the environments in which they live.

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